G is for Gratitude
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Gratitude, comes from the Latin word ‘gratia’, meaning gratefulness or thankfulness.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
In positive psychology, gratitude is looked upon as the way we acknowledge the good things in life. Psychologists define gratitude as ‘a positive emotional response that we perceive on giving or receiving a benefit from someone’ (Emmons & McCullough, 2004)
In the “busyness” of each day it’s too easy to forget that each and every day there are lots of things to be grateful for. We live in a world where we are constantly being bombarded with advertisements 24/7 telling us we must have the latest x, y or z in our lives or it will be meaningless. When we’re caught up with all these wants it’s too easy to forget and take for granted the many things we do have in our lives. Instead of feeling grateful we may feel entitled or envious and we unintentionally spend a lot of our time moaning and complaining.
“Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you This five-minute- a-day regime of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe” Wayne Dyer
When we don’t feel thankful we also find it more difficult to express our gratitude and appreciation to family, friends and others we meet.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well” Voltaire
When we do express appreciation and gratitude, it improves our sense of connection and interpersonal relationships both at home and at work (Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012). The connection between gratitude and happiness is multi-dimensional. By expressing gratitude, not only to others but also to ourselves, it induces positive emotions, such as happiness and has a positive impact on our overall health and well-being.
If, on the other hand, we focus on what we don’t have, we are kept ‘future-focused’ and it diminishes our ability to enjoy the present moment.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
By developing an attitude of gratitude we focus on expanding the positives in our life, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
“Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance” Eckhart Tolle
Gratitude is not only about feeling and expressing appreciation for all we do have (however much or little that may be) but it is also about being grateful for all the things that have not gone wrong that could have!
“Happiness comes easier when you stop complaining about all your problems and start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have”
Gratitude has the ability to change our perspective, shifting our attention away from annoying situations or pettiness that can bring up feelings of anger, frustration, impatience, indignation, intolerance, judgment, resentment etc. Gratitude can be seen as a tool that can reduce feelings of self-pity and self-centeredness and increase feelings of connectivity to others and give us a sense of belonging to a greater whole.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
William Arthur Ward
It is important to practice ‘an attitude of gratitude’ by expressing that gratitude in an active way. As well as trying to remember to thank people throughout your day, there are other specific ways you can practice this skill, for example by writing ‘gratitude letters’ (expressing appreciation for ways someone has helped you and/or been there for you at some point in time), keeping a gratitude diary where you reflect and write down a few things for which you’re grateful for also helps to shift your focus and can significantly increase well‑being and life satisfaction.
Keeping a gratitude journal is effective because over time it changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. It is important to be specific when adding entries e.g. rather than writing “I’m grateful for my friends” every day, be specific e.g. "I am grateful for ‘Fred’ because he messaged and asked how I was".. "I am grateful for ‘Fiona’’ because she remembered that I liked rhubarb and brought me some from her garden"
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” Henri Frederic Amiel
Being grateful is not just something that is ‘nice to do’, there is a proven connection between gratitude and good health e.g. studies show that by keeping a gratitude journal it reduces stress, improves sleep quality and builds emotional awareness (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).
Being grateful makes us feel happier, healthier, more optimistic and develops our levels of resilience. It has a positive, long lasting effect our brain and nervous system lowering stress, anxiety, and acting as a natural antidepressant. It also enhances positive feelings towards ourselves and others (Zahn et al., 2007)
When we express gratitude or receive it from others, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they enhance our mood , making us feel happy. By consciously practising gratitude everyday, we can help reinforce these neural pathways and ultimately create a stronger positive nature and response within ourselves.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
Gratitude also has wider social implications e.g. it reduces materialism by reducing the energy we put into trying to obtain things that don’t really matter and transfers our energies into spending quality time with people and building meaningful and healthy relationships.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” Aesop
It is easier to develop an attitude of gratitude by surrounding ourselves with people who also have a similar mindset because it provides us with reminders and role models for our own gratitude. When we surround ourselves with like-minded people, we become responsive rather than reactive, have more energy and motivation and we reduce the time we spend comparing our lot with others.
“Gratitude is a moment by moment choice to seek beauty, develop clarity and honour connectedness In a world of confusion, hate and division, gratitude is an act of bravery” Kristin Granger
Looking for the positive and expressing gratitude is not a case of trying to ignore the ‘negative’ or ‘things that don’t go as desired’ in our life, but rather it is a case of trying to redress the balance in our mind as we are born with a natural tendency towards a negative bias.
Negativity bias is the notion that if we experience an equal amount and intensity of things that we perceive as positive events and negative events, then things of a more negative nature will have a greater effect on our psychological state than neutral or positive events i.e. Something that is positive will have less impact on us than something equally emotional but negative therefore we have to work harder to create a corresponding level of reaction in our brains. When we actively focus on the positive it helps restore the balance whilst acknowledging the full spectrum of our messy lives.
“Focus on your daily blessings, future opportunities and possibilities and never allow your challenges, struggles and obstacles to interfere with your peace of mind.” Edmond Mbiaka
Being grateful is not always easy and requires self-discipline, using tools like defusion and reframing our resistance to situations, but by consistently practising gratitude it helps us to retake control of our lives.
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” Zig Ziglar
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1–10 with 10 meaning you consistently express gratefulness daily and 1 is extremely rare?
Who is there in my life that can I thank? Make it a daily habit to reflect and look for opportunities to thank those we come in contact with in real life as well as those we have virtual contacts with on line etc.
"Life is better if you develop an attitude of gratitude." Lewis Howes
If you are interested in some more reading on the subject, here are a few links to get you started:
and for a bit more in depth reading:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein